Former Mexican President To Trump: 'If You Want To Build A Wall, Waste Your Money'

Jan 29, 2018
Originally published on January 29, 2018 8:50 am

The U.S. isn't the only country with a president who takes shots at critics on Twitter. Vicente Fox, who made history in Mexico in 2000 when he became the first president to break 71 years of one party rule, is taking aim at President Trump.

He's frequently criticized the Trump Administration on Twitter and on air.

Fox, who served as president of Mexico for six years until 2006, also wrote a book that in part looks at Trump and the U.S.'s relationship with Mexico. It's called Let's Move On: Beyond Fear & False Prophets. The book highlights the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Trump has said his administration is renegotiating the terms of NAFTA. Fox argues that, "It's key and crucial that we keep ourselves united, and that we keep being the largest consumer market in the world."

Fox spoke with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about the book, his views on the Trump Administration and what he hopes for the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.


Interview Highlights

On the message of the book

Well, the message is the importance of the relationship between Mexico, United States and Canada, really NAFTA. The North American region. And I think it's key and crucial that we keep ourselves united, and that we keep being the largest consumer market in the world. And we have to be clear that this is the region that must lead the world.

On Trump saying the U.S. is at a disadvantage with NAFTA because of a large trade deficit with Mexico

The United States has a deficit with every single economy that it trades with. So the business of [the] United States is not to have a surplus in trading, it's much more important to have opportunity to participate in all those markets around the world.

On what he hopes to achieve from his public criticism of President Trump

What I want to attain is this strength that you can only have through partnering with United States. What we trade, United States and Canada is approaching now a trillion — this is millions and millions of dollars of trading — which makes us very strong, the region. Now, what I don't want to see is this weakening. What I don't want to see is United States building a wall — what for?

On drug cartels in Mexico and drugs crossing the border into the U.S.

Yes, we do have. But the drug cartels are here in United States. The headquarters of the drug cartels are American cartels that import the drugs through Mexico coming from Venezuela. And the main reason for that drug to come here is this mammoth drug market in United States.

On building a wall for border security as an issue

We are not against United States building a wall. If you want to build a wall, waste your money, it's not our case. What we are absolutely against is this stupid thing of Trump that makes you wanna pay for that wall. Finally, he understands that we are not paying for that wall, that that wall is going to be paid by U.S. taxpayers. And I ask U.S. taxpayers, "Are you willing to take out of your pocket $25 billion to build a useless wall?"

On if he would meet with the Trump Administration

I want to be very constructive. And yes, I have told Trump, "Anytime you're ready to apologize to Mexicans for what you told about us, I'm willing to sit down with you and arrange and fix whatever we have to in this relationship."

NPR's Isabel Dobrin produced this story for the Web. Martha Ann Overland edited this interview for broadcast.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Vicente Fox made history in Mexico when he became the first president to break 71 years of one-party rule. These days, the former leader is taking aim at the U.S. president on Twitter and on air. And now Vicente Fox has also written a book called, "Let's Move On: Beyond Fear & False Profits." And he joins me now in our studios. Welcome to the program. Bienvenido.

VICENTE FOX: Thank you, Lulu. Muchisima gracias. And it's a great book.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

FOX: I want to be very humble, but it's a strong message. I'm building bridges instead of walls.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Well, you've made a lot of news here with your attacks on President Trump. What is the message of this book?

FOX: Well, the message is the importance of the relationship between Mexico, United States and Canada - really, NAFTA - the North American region. And I think it's key and crucial that we keep ourselves united and that we keep being the largest consumer market in the world. And we have to be clear that this is the region that must lead the world.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right now, of course, President Donald Trump is in discussions to renegotiate NAFTA. He's also threatened to possibly even do away with it. Those negotiations have been quite tense. He says that the United States has a disadvantage with NAFTA because of an enormous trade deficit with Mexico, which is not doing any favors to the economy of the United States.

FOX: It's not enormous. It's not the largest. China is much larger deficit - same as Europe, same as Germany. As a matter of fact, United States has a deficit with every single economy that it trades with. So the business of United States is not to have a surplus in trading. It's much more important to have opportunity to participate in all those markets around the world.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're very blunt in this book, as you have been in real life, on your opinions on President Trump. And you write, (reading) why do I care so much about the United States and Donald Trump? Well, what would you do if your neighbor's house were on fire? Would you sit there and watch just because it's not your house, or would you try to help? Your words. My question is, what do you hope to achieve? A former Mexican president taking shots at the sitting American leader may offend many of the people you hope to persuade.

FOX: No. What I want to attain is this strength that we can only have through partnering with the United States. What we trade the United States and Canada is approaching now a trillion - a trillion - this is a million millions of dollars of trading, which makes us very strong - the region. Now, what I don't want to see is this weakening. What I don't want to see is United States building a wall. What for?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, the president says at least one reason is that your country is going through a vicious drug war. 2017 was the worst year on record for homicides. Over 29,000 people were murdered. One could argue that the country that is on fire is Mexico and not the United States.

FOX: Yeah, but again, that's always - Trump lies, lies mostly in the right figures. Twenty cities in United States have much higher crime rate. And over 120 nations throughout the world have higher crime rates than Mexico. So we are not a land of criminals. We are not rapists. And he's totally confused. And I don't know why he's always...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You don't have a problem with the drug cartels?

FOX: Oh, yes, we do have. But the drug cartels are here in the United States. The headquarters of the drug cartels are American cartels that import the drugs through Mexico coming from Venezuela. And the main reason for that drug to come here is this mammoth drug market in the United States.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Don't you think that border security is an issue. I mean, it also - I have been down...

FOX: Absolutely.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...To that border, and I've heard on the Mexican side of the border how they also want better security.

FOX: Absolutely, yes. We are not against United States building a wall. If you want to build a wall, waste your money. It's not our case. What we are absolutely against is this stupid thing of Trump that Mexico is going to pay for that wall. Finally, he understands that we are not paying for that wall. That wall is going to be paid by U.S. taxpayers. And I asked U.S. taxpayers, are you willing to take out of your pocket $25 billion to build a useless wall?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Since you've been very public about your opinions, and you've written this book, are you - do you have any plans to meet with anyone in the administration?

FOX: I want to be very constructive. And yes, I have told Trump, any time you're ready to apologize to Mexicans for what you told about us, I'm willing to sit down with you in that range and fix whatever we have to in this relationship.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico and author of the book "Let's Move On: Beyond Fear & False Profits." Muchisima gracias.

FOX: Thank you very much for this opportunity. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.